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Today, the sixth Friday of Lent, Oaxaca honors la Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).  Altars dedicated to her can be found in churches, businesses, and homes.  While the altars vary in their presentation, there are several key features (besides an image of the Virgin and candles) that will be found.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Templo del Carmen Alto

Wreaths of cucharilla (aka, Dasylirion, Sotol, desert spoon) — grown in Villa de Etla and the Mixtec region of Oaxaca — represent the crown of thorns of Jesus.

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Salvia Hispanica (aka, chia) sprouting from terracotta clay animals decorate altars — seeds which had been blessed on February 2, Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).  According to an article in MexConnect, “Growing greens remind the viewer of the resurrection and renewal of life.”  Yes, these are the original Chia Pets!

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Ceramic deer covered in chia sprouts on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

Bowls of water (often tinted) representing the “sweet tears of Mary” are set among violet colored drapes and flowers — violet being the color associated with Lent.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Huizache, a cooperative store selling Oaxacan crafts and clothing

Lilies, representing purity and chamomile, representing humility and the beauty of body and soul, can be found on altars.

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Lilies and chamomile on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

According to this article (in Spanish), altars to Our Lady of Sorrows started appearing in Oaxaca in the sixteenth century and her veneration on the sixth Friday of Lent grew from there.

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La Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) at Templo del Carmen Alto

Tonight at Templo del Carmen Alto, there will be a reading of the “Vía Dolorosa” (Way of Sorrows), a concert of sacred music by the Coro de la Ciudad (City Chorus), and a tasting of regional Lenten food.  Such is the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Oaxaca!

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Tonight, the clocks in most of Mexico spring ahead.

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However, the flowers are on their own time and the Flor de Mayo (aka, Plumeria, Frangipani) have already begun to bloom.

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After a few nights of a drop or two, we had an real rainstorm last night.

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The sound of rain lulled me to sleep last night.

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This morning I awoke to clear a clear sky and a glistening garden.

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While no one believes this is the start of the rainy season, it is much welcome evidence that Cocijo hasn’t forsaken the valley of Oaxaca.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

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Let us all raise a glass to the hummingbirds and bats of Oaxaca.

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Without the work they do pollinating the flowers on the quiotes (stalks) that shoot up from the agave,

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there would be no maguey piñas to harvest and cook…

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and no mezcal to drink!

*Mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor (makers of Ilegal mezcal) 2+ miles north of Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.  Check out their other mural at the palenque HERE.

 

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Day three of cut roses from the Mercado de Abastos.  Gracias a Kalisa!

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Crown of Thorns… new addition to the rooftop garden from the weekly Sunday plant sale in the Jardín Morelos.

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Winter may be coming, but there are always flowers blooming in Oaxaca.

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As my grandchildren finished their trick or treating up in el norte, I put the final touches on my Día de los Muertos ofrenda (offering) here in Oaxaca.

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A yellow (the color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests; papel picado (cut tissue paper), signifying the union between life and death, has been added, along with the traditional flowers of Day of the Dead — cempasúchil and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds), their scent to guide the spirits, and cockscomb to symbolize mourning.  Visitors brought the sunflower and, since my grandfather, father, and father-in-law were avid gardeners, it is for them!

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There is salt to make sure the souls stay pure and chocolate, peanuts, pecans, apples, mandarin oranges, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) to nourish them.

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The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the feast I have prepared.  And, there is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer).

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But, most important of all, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

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Revolutionary catrina and catrin for my revolutionary comadre and compadre, Sylvia and Nat.

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Yarn and a crochet hook for my dear grandmother who many of the abuelas (grandmothers) in Oaxaca remind me of — always wearing an apron, never wearing pants, and incredibly adept with crochet and embroidery thread.  And, for my adored grandfather, a San Francisco Giants baseball cap.  My grandparents moved next door at the same time the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco and grandpa and I listened to many games together on his transistor radio, as I helped him in the garden.

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There are other cherished friends and relatives on my altar, but pride of place goes to my parents.  For my father, who was killed when I was only two and a half, there is beer (below the above photo) — alas Victoria not Burgermeister!  And for my mother, a fan to cool herself as she dances and a bottle of port to sip before she sleeps.

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It’s been a two-day labor of love as I wanted everything to be perfect for my difutos (departed) to find their way and feel welcome in my Oaxaca home.

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Today the sun (finally) came out and hundreds (thousands?) of pots of cempasúchil (aka, cempoalxóchitl, cempaxochitl, cempoal, zempoal, flor de muertos) arrived in the city center.

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This was a photo op not only for yours truly but also the local press, as they trailed after the wife of Oaxaca’s governor while she viewed the unloading…

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and planting of the iconic Día de los Muertos flowers in the beds of the Zócalo and Alameda.

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The color and fragrance of the cempasúchil provide a lovely setting to sit and contemplate the world (and check your cell phone).

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Oaxaca is putting on her best to welcome her difuntos (deceased) along with the thousands of tourists who will soon be arriving.

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Not all cotton bolls are white…

Roberta French, who built my apartment complex in Oaxaca many decades ago, established a textile weaving business and planted coyuche (koyuchi), a natural brown cotton.  She is no longer with us, but her plant survives and grows up onto my balcony.  This time of year, the yellow, pink, and rose flowers bloom, die, form pods, and brown cotton fluff results.

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And the results?  Here, at my apartment complex, the plant is solely decorative.  However, the traditional way of growing, spinning, and weaving brown cotton is still practiced in some communities in coastal Oaxaca, Mexico.  And, I have been lucky enough to have been gifted an old huipil woven of coyuche and acquired a new one at an expo-venta here in Oaxaca city.  If you would like more information on coyuche and its cultivation and weaving, I recommend checking out the Katyi Ya’a collective.

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The late rainy season continues, but my garden brings sunshine to a cloudy day.

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8:00 AM

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5:40 PM

The Stephanotis floribunda reaches for the sky and brings the light.

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Yesterday morning…

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Cleistocactus

There are days when light and shadows paint the garden and I sigh at Mother Nature’s artistry.

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June in Oaxaca city, the mornings are grey.

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Bougainvillea

The sun eventually appears.

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Plumbago

Afternoon clouds gather and thunder rumbles in the distance.

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African tulip tree

Then darkness descends.

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Night blooming cereus

Alas, this June only a minimal amount of rain has fallen.  But the garden endures.

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Act two of this year’s night blooming cereus extravaganza began the night of April 22…

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Continued the night of April 26…

Night blooming cereus flower

And, it looks like there will be more in a week or two!

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Plumeria (aka, Frangipani, Flor de mayo) currently bringing their fragrance to the Casita Colibrí terrace…

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As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers — even if it’s still April!

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Last night my night blooming cereus welcomed me home.

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Seriously!

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While scientists were in the process of identifying four new species of agave, an agave on my terrace…

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June 28, 2017

… had a surprise of its own.

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July 23, 2017

Seemingly overnight, from its center, a stalk (aka, quiote) began reaching toward the sky.

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July 23, 2017

After awhile, buds began appearing along the sides of the stalk.

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September 18, 2017

And from the buds, the rainy season brought blossoms.

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September 27, 2017

The flowers opened from bottom to top.

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October 21, 2017

Eventually, all the flowers browned and seed pods began forming.

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November 19, 2017

Who knows what I will find when I return to Casita Colibrí next week.  What I do know is that this agave is now dying — but there are plantlets waiting to replace it!  By the way, quiotes have traditionally been used for firewood (Maybe for my chiminea?) and even to make a didgeridoo-like musical instrument.  (Hmmm… I don’t think I’ll try the latter.)

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